Address: 21 Back Swinegate
Prices: £16-£25 (2 courses)
La Tasca styles itself with the catchphrase ‘Spain is closer than you think’. Being an enthusiast for Spanish cuisine, I looked forward to testing this theory. I must say, upon entering the restaurant I did appreciate the authentic Spanish atmosphere – be it the music, the Spanish waiters or the fact that you literally had to navigate yourself through a salsa class to reach the loos.
After a bit of a wait, we were finally seated and, to our delight, discovered the offer of ‘as much tapas as you can eat for a tenner’, giving us a choice of four items at a time from a set menu with around 16 options.
For our first round, we went for a selection of calamari, chicken wings, chicken and seafood paella, spicy meatballs, salad, chicken croquettes and of course a pitcher of sangria. My appreciation ended there. The waiters were unenthusiastic throughout, taking 45 minutes to bring us a glass of water.
When the food arrived, it was deceptively well-presented. On the whole however, we were disappointed. The calamari was a big let-down, it was not hot and tasted like greasy rubber. The paella (if you can even call it that), was distinctly bland, consisting of poorly-cooked cold rice, with a few peas, barely any chicken and two inedible mussels (easily the worst seafood I have ever tasted). The meatballs were flavoursome, if a little dry but the croquettes were tasty. I was not a fan of the chicken wings. I couldn’t shake the feeling that they had just been thrown in the microwave with a bit of barbecue sauce.
Quite hit and miss so far then (more misses than hits) and, although we were beginning to feel full, we had every intention of taking advantage of the ‘all you can eat’ offer. We ordered round two, still hopeful.
This time we decided on mushrooms in garlic and white wine, ‘patatas bravas’ (fried potatoes in tomato sauce) and baked aubergine. I love mushrooms but these were slightly undercooked and, yet again, cold and bland. The chorizo was flavoursome but too chewy and was swimming in a spicy and oily sauce. The potatoes were lovely and crispy, but the baked aubergine was the winner. It was mouth-watering and cooked to perfection, easily the only plate worth ordering in the restaurant.
My time in La Tasca left me feeling more siesta than fiesta. Nothing appeared to be freshly cooked. We half-joked that the only reason the aubergine stood out was because it was the only thing that they couldn’t shove in the microwave.
The overall experience was more reminiscent of sitting in halls, consuming ‘Yummy chicken’ and Uncle Bens microwave rice than of dining on freshly caught seafood on a beach in Barcelona. In future, if I want to eat Spanish food it appears I will have to do it myself.